Automatic recognition of vertebral landmarks in fluoroscopic sequences for analysis of intervertebral kinematics

P. Bifulco, M. Cesarelli, R. Allen, M. Sansone, M. Bracale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intervertebral kinematics closely relates to the functionality of the spinal segments. Direct measurement of the intervertebral kinematics in vivo is very problematic. The use of a fluoroscopic device can provide continuous screening of the lumbar tract during patient spontaneous motion, with an acceptable, low X-ray dose. The kinematic analysis is intended to be limited to planar motion. Kinematic parameters are computed from vertebral landmarks on each frame of the image sequence. Landmarks are normally selected manually in spite of the fact that this is subjective, tedious to perform and regarded as one of the major contributors to errors in the computed kinematic parameters. The aim of this work is to present an innovative method for the automatic recognition of vertebral landmarks throughout a fluoroscopic image sequence to provide an objective and more precise quantification of intervertebral kinematics. The recognition procedure is based upon comparing vertebral features in two adjacent frames by means of a cross-correlation index, which is also robust despite the low signal-to-noise ratio of the lumbar fluoroscopic images. To provide a quantitative assessment of this method a calibration model was used which consisted of two lumbar vertebrae linked by a universal joint. The reliability and accuracy of the kinematic measurements have been investigated. The errors are of the order of a millimetre for the localisation of the intervertebral centre of rotation and tenths of a degree for the intervertebral angle. Error analysis suggests that this method improves the accuracy of the intervertebral kinematic calculations and has the potential to automate the selection of anatomical landmarks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalMedical and Biological Engineering and Computing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001


  • Fluoroscopy
  • Intervertebral kinematics
  • Motion analysis
  • Time-varying image processing
  • Vertebral segments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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